Russia has 1,600 nuclear missile warheads capable of reaching U.S. territory. Even a small fraction of these, if launched, would disable our electric grid and financial networks, and undoubtedly our overall economy as well. With our relationship with Russia deteriorating, and with Russian-backed militias on the march in Eastern Ukraine, President Obama is proposing to spend exactly nothing on means, which currently do exist, to defend against such an attack.

Although President Reagan understood that mutually assured destruction (MAD) was indeed a mad idea to follow when dealing with potentially irrational counter-parties such as the men who ruled the Soviet Union in his day, the effort he began to develop ballistic missile defenses came to an end with the ending of the Cold War. An interlude that we mistook for peace then followed, and today, President Obama is promoting the idea that missile defense is too difficult and expensive, and that it would also be destabilizing because the Russians would perceive our moves to defend ourselves as aggressive.

It should be noted that the very rudimentary defensive system that the Obama administration produced in response to North Korea’s successful entry into the nuclear club, called the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, could potentially intercept warheads attacking from any direction. However, anything over a dozen or so Russian warheads would overwhelm this system, and why would Putin launch only a dozen?

Were we to produce sufficient multiples of this system, and further improve it, we would begin to have a credible shield to a Russian nuclear attack. Instead, we have provided ourselves with only the cold comfort of being able, upon being destroyed ourselves, to respond in kind by destroying Russia, a country that is pretty much a shambles already.

While a missile defense system would involve some read expense, the rewards in altering the calculations of our enemies would be substantial. The reassurance it would offer our public would also be substantial – just ask Israel, whose Iron Dome missile defense system has altered the balance of forces between it and its enemies.

With Iran poised to go nuclear itself, and both Iran and North Korea pursuing ballistic missile advances, some hard-headed realists are concluding that our options are now narrowing to a rather sharp point; war, or missile defense. Mutually Assured Destruction, after all, only works when your adversaries are sane.



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